Romeo leans against the mesh grid of the arena theatre, gazing longingly up at his Juliet, thebushy haired, 19-year-old man staring up at the stars… or the overhead rehearsal lights, but who really cares when you’re watching Romeo and Juliet, Tufts style. The entire “Acting for Directors” course stares, in awe, at their fellows as they sit on the stage, watching Romeo bound up the audience steps to the concourse in an attempt to woo his man. Now, I must admit: I’m a bit of a Shakespeare purist. When I heard that Spencer and Ed were going to be playing Romeo and Juliet, respectively, I didn’t particularly like the idea. Yes, originally, in Shakespeare’s time, Juliet would have been played by a young boy who had not yet hit puberty, and there is nothing different about two men falling in love, but, in my poor opinion, Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene is perhaps one of the greatest love scenes of all time and I was having trouble imagining it in a different light, especially since I am so attached to those characters. The way the two play so perfectly to preconceived notions about their gender’s reactions to love make it so compelling and very difficult for two men: a boy, playing a boy, saying “thou knowest the mask of night is on my face; else would a maiden blush bepaint my check” just doesn’t really work… a “maiden blush…” BUT, seeing two of my best friends fall in love with some of the most beautiful poetry known to man was overwhelming to say the least. No really, I was sitting on the stage, unable to contain my joy, as their passion for one another, and the beautiful staging, made my heart melt, and all previous concerns about a man playing Juliet fade away. It was stunning.
I tell you this story not because I feel that you need to know about this particular staging of the Bard’s play (though I really wish you could have seen it), but because it is yet another example of how my opinions have been challenged and altered by my time here at Tufts. Countless times I’ve had to rethink, retract, or defend my thoughts when challenged by my peers. Sometimes, like in the case of this Romeo and Juliet, I’ve had to reconsider my opinion on the matter and ask myself why I felt that way to begin with, and other times, I’ve had the fortune to influence someone else’s opinions on a matter: like last night when I got into a heated debate with an old director about whether the beginning of Romeo and Juliet could be considered a comedy (and won). I love those challenges, those kinds of conversations that don’t end with pleasantries and the weather but continue into some fascinating and difficult topic, and I find myself partaking in them on a regular basis. But isn’t that what college is for? Isn’t college a time to challenge opinions, create new ones, and feel comfortable voicing your thoughts with the knowledge that you might (will) be asked to explain more? It may not be for everyone, but it works for me. This version of Romeo and Juliet challenged my previous and long held conceptions, but also gave me a greater understanding of the piece and appreciation for Shakespeare’s work: the love between the two is so pure and strong that it doesn’t particularly matter who is playing who, and that is simply magical!